|Municipality of Sant Joan de labritja|
As a person who has witnessed and lived through the so called “Celtic Tiger” boom in Ireland, I can relate very well to what is happening at Benirras in Ibiza. The Celtic Tiger in Ireland was fuelled by development and construction in the building industry. Tax free incentives introduced by Government and low interest rates offered by the banks, allowed for a property bubble to grow in which corruption and poor planning was rife. With the collapse of Lehman Brothers, brought about by toxic sub prime mortgage loans and derivatives, the true extent of the Irish property bubble was exposed for all to see. We are now left with a €79 Billion debt, abandoned building projects, and scars on our beautiful countryside that were the result of corrupt planing and backhanders to local town councillors.
In Ibiza today, one of the Islands most beautiful and natural areas is found to the North, in the Municipality of Sant Joan De Labritja. It is the smallest of the Islands five ;municipality’s but arguably it most beautiful and natural, largely untouched by development and commercialism. It is regarded as a rural area and therefore not trendy enough to develop. In 2007 the then Government, which was a green tinged, socialist coalition, passed laws that prevented any development in the Benirras area. They rightly observed that the area should remain untouched by concrete dwellings and bulldozers. While that law was in progress of drafting, an avalanche of planning submissions for the Benirras area were submitted for approval,in the hope that they would beat the enactment deadline of the new law. In some cases the local town council in San Joan granted permission for certain building projects in under 24hours, a practice that the environmentalist group GEN, described as corrupt. Normally, planning submissions in Ibiza take months to complete.
The permissions that were granted within that period and before the green legislation became law, now claim that they have a legal right to build in the area. After the last General Election in Ibiza, a new Government, the PP (Partido Popular) party now controls the Island. They are viewed as a pro business and development friendly organisation, in complete contrast to the previous green, socialist PSOE- PACTE incumbents. The developers that own the Benirras land and who threatened to claim compensation for delays to their projects, now have a much more sympathetic ear to turn to. It now looks certain that building will take place in the Benirras area, as permission for the construction of 40 private villas has been given the green light to proceed. The PSOE-PACTE party claim that the decision is “savage” as it involves the “destruction of one of the last natural landmarks of the coast that remains virtually untouched” by development.
Legally and in the cold light of day, the Benirras development,technically has a right to proceed and the owners of the land would be in a position to claim compensation if they were not allowed to build there. The current government will say that restricted building is better than paying over millions in compensation. For optics, they have denied the permission for 69 apartments, to allow a scaled down development of 40 villas under “strict guidelines and restrictions”. Its all seems to be a token, damage limitation exercise. What they should be doing is investigating the “irregularities” that occurred during the granting of the contentious licences that created the problem but this is unlikely to happen as Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.
Its all a very sad and immoral situation. Once again corruption has raised its ugly head and that nearly always spells trouble for the natural beauty of Ibiza. The Politicians will say it Business and it brings employment to the local community at a time of recession in Europe.The majority of the electorate in Ibiza voted for these Politicians and at the end of the day you get what you vote for. Until the people of Ibiza decide to vote differently, expect business as usual for the developers.